Celtic 1—4 Sparta Prague.

I must admit a tinge of satisfaction. I knew Rangers were one goal down at Benfica. When I checked again they were 3—1 up and Benfica were down to ten men.  It ended up 3—3. Not quite a crisis.

Here we go again. All the fireworks at Parkhead were from the Czechoslovakian team. They scored four goals. Hit the bar and post. Every time the Czech team went forward they looked like scoring. Celtic have lost at home to Rangers, A C Milan and Sparta Prague in quick succession. We had a reasonable draw in France, a disappointing draw at Pittodrie and a decent win at Hampden.

‘They’re all over the place at the back’, was Alan Stubbs’s  summary after the third goal. Lukas Julis swept the ball into the net from just outside the six-yard box for a hat trick. Game over, after substitute Griffiths had scored on  the 65th minute to give us hope of a fight back, a draw, or even enough time for a win.  

But it was the Czech, number seven who made it look so easy. Karrison wasn’t far behind Julis for man of the match. Then again, he was up against Shane Duffy in a foot race, which the Irish man looked odds on to win. Duffy has the habit of making it look so easy for the attacker. Karrison swept past him, just over the half-way line. The ball was lost, the game was lost. Krejci added a fourth for Sparta on the 90th minute.

The Sparta manager claimed Celtic were the weakest team in the group. He retracted, and added, what he meant was Milan and Lille were leading their respective leagues, which were competitively stronger. He was right the first time. The stats don’t lie. Four European ties on the bounce lost at Parkhead. Not since Ronnie Deila, when we closed the top-tier, have Celtic looked so unconvincing in defence and powder puff all over the park.

Lennon has rolled the dice. Difficult to see what he does next. Laxalt and Rogic coming back have been positives. Elyounoussi checking his phone, after being subbed. That tells us all we need to know about priorities. Maybe he was checking the league tables.

Celtic are not in a good place. Out of Europe. We’ve all being saying the say thing, concentrate on the league. I wish it was that simple. Shane Duffy is the worst loan signing since—(stick your own suggestion in here). The Celtic defence is all over the place. So is the team. So is the management team. Sixty thousand Celtic fans who would have turned up for these games would have been short-changed had they paid good money. Robbed. We’re watching through the cracks in our fingers. Hoping that other mob crack first. Whatever they do, we can do better. We showed it again tonight. Away to Motherwell on Sunday—must win. What Celtic team will turn up?

Kilmarnock 1—1 Celtic

Celtic would have been expected to pick up three points here (and everywhere else in Scottish football). On paper they have better players in every position. On the plastic pitch they were paper-tigers. Kilmarnock deserved their draw. No Celtic player got pass marks, apart from the new Celtic goalkeeper, Barakas. The Greek international was beaten by a Chris Burke penalty, but he wasn’t culpable, barely having a shot to save. That falls to Julien. With Celtic a goal up from a long-range Christie free-kick, which the Kilmarnock rookie keeper Rogers should have saved, Celtic weren’t cruising, but they were in control. The best player on the pitch, Kabanaba was giving the Celtic centre-half and his partner, Ayer, a torrid time. He was also giving a Kilmarnock team based on getting everybody behind the ball, and defending deep, an outball. Kabamaba totally dominated Jullien, who had one of those games were he could do nothing right. A nothing ball in behind him. A stramash between Scott Brown and Kabamba who held him and Jullien off. He spun away the Celtic centre-back on the touchline. Jullien pulled him down. Stone-wall penalty. Stupidity of the first order. But Celtic still have some of the first-half and the whole of the second half to make amends.

Let’s cut to the usual shite about how many blocks the Kilmarnock defenders, in particular, made. Power, for example, making two million blocks and taking a booking for the team. Rogers the Kilmarnock keeper was slightly more worked than Barkas, but without having to do much more than punt the ball up the park and pick out poor crosses and scuffed shots.

When you bring on Bolingoli in the dying minutes then you know how terrible your team must have been. Elyounoussi looked dangerous pre-season. Another performance like this we’ll pay Southampton to keep him. Edouard, who often as not been our saviour, did nothing. Christie got a goal, but was posted missing for most of the match. Forrest had the kind of game were you’re asking if he was on the park. McGregor was slightly better than Brown and might even have got pass marks, but he didn’t pass the ball enough to achieve that. Frimpong, who has been so good of late, couldn’t conjure a trick. Taking him off for Elhmad didn’t hurt anybody, didn’t change anything. Ntcham on for Brown didn’t add anything either. Kimala on for Elyounoussi was a change that might have worked on another day. The Polish striker at least looked lively and might have got on the end of a fluffed cross. Ajer had a poor game and if he’s worth thirty million, grab the money. But then again, his defensive partner stole the show, we paid seven million for him, generally, money well spent. On this showing, today (and he’d previous as Livingstone against a physical centre-forward) he was inept, poor, merde or shite, take your pick.

Every point counts and this was two points flung away against a Kilmarnock team whom Lennon knew exactly how they would play. But, to be fair, the Celtic manager couldn’t have known his own players could play collectively and individually as badly. Shades of Ibrox here.  It’ll give him something to think about in the away fixture to St Mirren, who were brushed aside by Rangers. I can tell you exactly how St Mirren will play—the same as Kilmarnock—and if we play the same then ten in a row…I know, I know…I know…

Celtic 2—1 Lazio.

Celtic got lucky last night and I got unlucky, with my three quid bet on Christopher Julien to score the first goal, odds 40/1. Julien popped up with the winner on the last minute of the ninety. But there was still time for the Italians to fling players forward. Celtic held out. Prior to the nail-biting finale, with some stout defending, but for two wonder saves by Fraser Forster victory could and perhaps should have went to the Italian visitors.

Fraser Forster does what goalkeepers are meant to do. Win you games. Scott Bain stopped doing it, prior to his injury. Craig Gordon is so out of the picture he’s grew a beard and is auditioning for seasonal shifts as Santa in his local supermarket. Forster has his limitations. He’s not a goalkeeper that’s going to keep the ball and play dinky little passes to his midfield or defenders. He’s a humper of balls and that’s the way I like it. Forster also had a howler this season, if you look back at the second goal against Livingstone. The ball was kicked from one end of the park to the other and into his box. Stay or go. Forster stayed and went too late. It was his goal to lose and his fault. Simple.

But remember when Barcelona tagged him the big yellow banana, or something stupid. It might have been barrier. He was that good that world-class players, who would never remember the name Scott Brown, kinda remembered who he was. Forster took the iconic number 67 and put it on his back. He knows what that means.

Ryan Christie took the place of Tom Rogic, scored in 67 minutes to equalise a tie that looked to be slipping away from the Celts.

Celtic with a capacity crowd behind them—and me screaming from the pub couch, with a pint of Guinness in my hand—started brightly. Forest set up Odsonne Edouard, but the Celtic striker took too long to hit it and was blocked by the Italian defender Denis Vavro. Hatem Abd Elhamed was in for Jeremy Frimpong, the Dutch wonder kid, who played so well in the six-nil defeat of Ross County.  I’m tempted to quote Bruce Lee when he spotted somebody karate-ing their way through lumps of wood, ‘boards don’t hit back’. Lazio weathered these early setbacks. Our wingers, James Forest and Mohamed Elyounoussi, largely disappeared as attacking threats. The latter, was replaced late in the game by Tom Rogic, but it could have just as easily been Forest. And everybody that knows if you’re a winger and you get replaced by Rogic, you’re having a stinker.

Ryan Christie had shaved the outside of the post. Callum McGregor then came close with a dipping drive. There were shouts for a penalty. I was shouting anyway. We didn’t get a penalty, but we did lose a goal. That shut me up.

Boli Bolingoli was too high up the park. I’m not blaming him, although I’m tempted. He’s redeemed himself somewhat, after his performance at Ibrox, but he’s still the weakest link. A pass in behind Boli split the Celtic defence. Kristoffer Ajer went too late to block Lazarri. The Italian zipped the ball into the net at Forster’s near post. All three Celtic players were culpable, but despite his late heroics, perhaps the goalkeeper should have done better.

Celtic were a goal down at half-time and Lazio were the more dangerous and better team. Celtic didn’t offer the same energy at the start of the second half. Lazio looked the team more likely to score the second goal and win the tie. We got lucky again.

We’d almost scored. Edouard chased the ball down and worked his way into the box. Closed down by defenders he back-heeled the ball to Elyounoussi who had a clear shot on goal, but fluffed it. The ball broke to Christie who hit it at an on-rushing defender.

At the other end of the park, time seemed to stop as Joaquin Correa went through a one-on-one with Forster. The human banana blocked him and he flicked a shot off the base of the post. Celtic were still in the game.

And in 67 minutes Christie again scored in Europe, hitting the ball first time and curling it by the keeper.

Lazio looked the more likely team to get a winner. Forster made two world-class wonder saves. Lazarri had, once again, left Bolingoli needing a drone delivery to get back in, and Parlo met his nemesis in Forster. Parlo was in again later, to shank wide.

Julien popped up with that winner. Raising the roof. I’d like to say the best team won. Aye, we did. Kinda.  

Rangers 0—2 Celtic.

celtic v anderlecht.jpg

I usually write a blog about Celtic’s big games, but this was one of those matches where everything goes as planned. Celtic didn’t score five this time. But if you listen to Steven Thompson on telly then Celtic could easily have scored five or six, had eighteen shots on target and he doesn’t think the gap between Celtic and Rangers has declined. Thompson is, of course, a former Ranger’s centre-forward and hardly a neutral. From where I was sitting, drunk admittedly, Wes Fodernigham made the save of the match, after a minute from Tom Rogic’s strike. Armstrong slipped when he was about to shoot and Griffiths missed an absolute sitter, heading well over the bar from the back post. That was all inside ten minutes. Brown strolled the midfield and Ranger’s brave new signings, much like the old lot, were playing with concrete feet on. Yet, after the game, I was told Rangers bossed the first half.

Looking for evidence of this a ball did flash across the Celtic box at one point and Jozo Simunovic did pull out of a tackle on the Ranger’s centre-forward, Alfredo Morelos, which could have been classified as a penalty, but wasn’t. Other than that Celtic did look a bit pedestrian, but teams like St Johnstone have pushed them further for longer than Rangers managed for about five minutes.

When  the diddy teams don’t score first they are in trouble and so it proved. A trundler from Patrick Roberts from the edge of the box and Tom Rogic (I’d two quid on him as first-goalscorer at 9/1)  was first to pounce and Celtic were one up and coasting. And when Roberts drifted in behind the defence to play in Griffiths the game was over, the Copland Road stand emptied and most of the blue contingent went hame in case anything else happened.  Celtic brought on McGregor for Rogic. Forrest for Roberts and Dembele for Griffiths. Bitton, Hayes and Nicham didn’t get a sniff. I’ve been impressed by Eboue Koussai but he’s injured. Liam Henderson can’t get a hooped strip. Ryan Christie is out on loan and set up Aberdeen’s win at Motherwell with a marvellous piece of skill. Odsonne Edouard, the onloan striker from PSG, wasn’t stripped either, despite being one of the three best strikers in Scottish football. There’s no doubt a Celtic second eleven would have a real chance of beating the first-eleven. I’d certainly expect them to beat Rangers easily.

Back to the Champions League duty where Celtic are the minnows, but it’s minnow against minnow this week with a game against Anderlecht on Wednesday. Last time we were rotten and a young seventeen-year-old Vincent Kompany stood tall against Hartson, Sutton and Henrik. Inevitably, there was talk of signing him, but I wonder where that Kompany boy  is now?

Celtic 1—1 Rangers


A draw that feels like a defeat. That’s how far we’ve come. The demolition of Rangers when they last visited Parkhead by five goals was comprehensive. If you can remember back to that day the big worry was that in-form Leigh Griffith was out. And Rangers would be nipping on our heels for the league. Joey Barton would be the best player in Scottish football by a mile (or so he said, but don’t misquote him). Since then Celtic have beaten Rangers comfortably. Yesterday they didn’t. And Rangers deserved their draw. And if Waghorn was a striker that could finish then it really would have been a victory and not a pyrrhic victory, because if Celtic are going to lose a game – and they didn’t here, then this was a good time to do so. Defeat against Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final will bring the season to a grinding halt. And it will lift Rangers.

It’s easy to point out Celtic’s failings. They were all over the park. Craig Gordon a stand out. Stuart Armstrong best outfield player. He scored a wonderful goal just before half-time. Five shots all on target, one of which hits the post. Scott Brown had a decent game. That old cliché, win all your duels. He did that, while all around him others did not.  Pass marks to Tierney, who came onto a game and there was that wonderful cameo of nutmegging an opposition defender. All the other defenders, woeful. Sinclair, who can usually be relied on to score, went missing. And his fellow striker, Dembele on a better day could have had a hat-trick, here more puff than powder puff. On any other day those two would have been first for the hook. Bitton was hooked at half-time, for MacGregor. Roberts came on for Forrest. Griffiths came on for Armstrong. After Craig Gordon had produced another great save, the Celtic defence if they weren’t playing Keystone Cops falling over and backing into people and falling over again, most notably Erik Sviatchenko, then they were last to react as centre half older than Methuselah, beats them to the punch and Clint Hill scores. Two other Rangers players were behind him. Celtic defenders? Oxymoron.

Worst performance of the day, however, by popular acclaim was Bobby Madden the referee. Leigh Griffiths said it was a penalty. The Ranger’s player who made the tackle admitted it was a penalty. The referee didn’t see it that way. He also didn’t see Kenny Miller’s kung-fu tackle or Jason Holt’s X-rated scissor-tackle on Roberts.

Celtic’s big-game players didn’t turn up. Now with a new manager at Ibrox, and a 1-1 victory for Rangers, we’re hearing the same old shit, there’s no real gap between the teams, or the gap isn’t as big as some people think or poor Pedro or poor Ranger’s ‘I’ve inherited the best group of players in Scotland’. Ho-hum. Celtic let us down in a big semi-final last year, it’s of the let’s just not go there places we don’t want to visit.


Barcelona 7—Celtic 0.


Where’s the ba? In the net…

I must admit I’d a fiver on Celtic to win at 33/1. You know it’s not going to happen, but think it might. And at those odds, you can’t really lose, although you did. We all know how it works. Barcelona need to have an off day as they did on Saturday against a newly promoted team. The Celtic goalkeeper has got to have the game of his life, as David Marshal once did, or even Frazer Foster.  Here De Vries came in to replace Craig Gordon, the latter whom had taken to making a few howlers, most notably bumping into Janko in the Champions-League qualifier. De Vries has been notable by his absence. Since replacing Craig Gordon I can’t remember him making a save. Here he was at it again. Dreadful. Gamboa replaced Janko, but it’s difficult to make an assessment of him. He didn’t seem to touch the ball. Lustig was often in the wrong place at the wrong time and never made a tackle. You can add the other centre-halfs to that list Shevchenko and Toure. The shining light in Celtic’s performances last season, and this, has been Kieran Tierney. His worst performance came in Israel, but this was topped last night. A toss-up between De Vries and Tierney to determine who the worst Celtic player was, but Scott Brown our captain would probably have lost that as well.

Of the midfield four, Scott Brown was Celtic’s man of the match because i) he tackled and ii) he made two passes in a row to his teammates. Bitton was the straw man from the Wizard of Oz and could have been taken off at any time. Sinclair, who up until now, has that magic touch and scored in every game, lost his touch here. Roberts at least tried to get forward, taking people on, but losing the ball.

Dembele missed a penalty that funnily enough would have put us 1-1. Hard to believe that now. When Barcelona are winding down and they bring on Ineista, well that just about says it all. Celtic weren’t expected to win, but they weren’t expected to capitulate in this way. But this game is a freebie. We expected nothing from it and took nothing. A reality check in the same way that the result in Israel was also a reality check. Much work needs to be done, but even now, after the biggest hammering I’ve ever seen Celtic take, we’re finally going in the right direction.